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Category: Poems

“He says my love grows…”

Geneseo, NY

He says my love grows from a big space to an even bigger


This is what happens when you’re sure: it’s fear full of loss.

I’m standing at the ledge & he is a balloon I’m afraid to

drop—totally ignorant that he would just float, a perfect

pressure—just in front of my face—so close I could smell

the latex.

One day you’ll see that these letters are full of love for you

too & there will be so much you’ll want to suck out of them,

like pomegranate, juice & seeds six in your palm.


from Hot with the Bad ThingsFind more by Lucia LoTempio at the library

Copyright © 2020 Lucia LoTempio
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

The Long Labors

My grandmother said it was going to be long — as long as you can hold your lineage

— depending on how long you can hold your tongue — as long as your tongue can wrap

around the pit — of some stolen stone fruit —as long as you can hide your pitter-patter face

— glued in sun-split splinters – lengthening shadows as long as your face — longing

to be mirrored back — back to your daughter your mother your grandmother — freckle by

freckle — furnished forever across — the long loaming haul — Collapsed

in a pool of spit — my mouth over papers — raccoon doctorate — luxurious loser with thin

branch fingers — no meat in the palm — no muscle in the bending — the farmer in me is

atrophying — the cook the factory seamstress the clerk the mother in me is pooling out —

all that I come from — all that I owe to them — what is left of me — what is — me:

professorial rat — book leavened and maddened in meetings — chewing at my desk on a

frozen anything — microwave spun and splattered on lessons — wondering who packaged

this — who spooned this glacial sauce into this plastic hull — whose hands whose daughter

does she look like me does she like dancing in the gloaming — funneled into my greedy

mouth — I: daughter of long labors — I: knock-off half-price guilt — I: impossible

imposter big words big words — trying to prove what — and to whom — I wait to be

seated at a restaurant — a white person enters and orders from me — “I want sweet and

sour chicken but without bell peppers and brown rice” — and I almost take it down —

In the twelfth hour of nightshift overtime — my mother gob-

bles the air of the facility — mouth opening a cavern or a bowhead whale or a sinkhole —

gobbling up its oxygen its nitrogen its argon its skin its hair dust its swirling smog — collect ing time collecting benefits — her eyes so baggy they carry a leaking pack of chicken breasts

— she had planned to cook tonight for us — but look at the break room clock she is out of

time and now — they will surely go bad — what a waste at $1.50 a pound — she returns to

her station rubs tiger balm and lavender oil along her wrists and hands — chews dried

ginger to keep awake — the root of herself sharpening salivating — reapplies pink lipstick

swivels the tube upwards — rituals of resilience — feeds letters to machines churning

intestinal noise — electricity bills and love letters and baby photos and magazines ladies

who lunch will take to the salon and credit card limited time offers and reminders from the

dentist and supermarket weeklies and postcards from Oahu “you wouldn’t believe how

blue the water how restful how peaceful bring the whole family next time” — ginger chew

ginger chew — Who made this for you — do you know the song that

reminds them of home — do you know to play the radio as loud as you can and roll down

the windows and smack your cheeks ten times in order to stay awake for the drive — do you

know who sewed on this button — do you know the murmuring leg ache from standing all

day a tree for whom — do you know who processed the letter you received today — fed it

into a machine with paper cuts as wide as a river you could float in — do you know how

long you can hold your urine until your 15-minute break — the roiling pressure in the


abdomen the tick-tap of the feet the hands — how much to tip the gas attendant in Jersey

how the smell sticks behind both earlobes — the temperature when flipping a wok the

oil burns the white-papered hat measuring salt at the brim — how your impatient face

resembles a slowly rotting peach — worms in the snarl — do you know the name of your

fishmonger the name of my uncle the times he has snuck in a call to say he will be late

picking up his daughter fish scales glittered to his elbows like opera gloves — do you know

cuticles peeling white like flecks of cod after washing dishes — do you know the smell of

nail polish remover stinging bees in your nostrils — do you know the back — how the back

curls how the back bridges how the back puckers and crunches — like packed snow no one

else but you will shovel out —

I look up how labor is used in a sentence — “the obvious labor” — “immigrants

provided a source of cheap labor” — “negotiations between labor and management” —

“wants the vote of labor in the elections” — “the flood destroyed the labor of years” —

“industry needs labor for production” — anthropocene capitalism gentrification – what

do these words mean – and to whom — helping my mother over the sink — I snip the ends

of long beans 豆角 with kitchen shears – the ends rolling away — little green lizard tails – I

cut away each word like a long bean — gentrificat — gentrif — gen — ge — g — glugging

the g — down the drain — If only lying on a beach — limbs

loosened like an old garden hose — if only watching the movements of our stomachs —

rising and falling like baby jellyfish — our thighs waxing and waning — in bristle-rough

sand if only — reading a book the pages — wrinkled and curled like a snail shell — from

falling asleep against our faces — if only devouring a cloud — full of no rain no metallic

muscle if — only softness if only we —went off in the softness — into the downy relaxing

abyss — what is this word — vacation — my grandmother asks me chili oil hitting the wok

like delicious dying stars — My grandmother said it was going to be long —

going out the door always late for work — shirt inside out — said go on and bounce a

howling baby (my mother/me/et al) – while skimming oxtail broth — the fat sheen of look

how well we eat in this country —lest you forget it was worth it — lest you forget — the

dilation of the cervix going the contractions going the grip the placenta the shit the vernix

the garbled life going the soft flashlight eyes the milk the teeth the nails the hand on heart

the soup coagulating on the stove — you must go — for what gleams in the dark turns to

look at you — remember this — the work and the afterwork and the work of being

perceived as not doing enough work though you are working well over enough — will this

ever be enough — when is enough enough — the chorus now: not until the knots of fat

— melt in this wok — not until you have nothing left but this suet — this smear of high

heat lineage — gleaming in the gloaming — and it is yours and it is mine and it is your

dream daughter’s and it will last longer than you will ever believe — believe us —

from How to Not Be Afraid of EverythingFind more by Jane Wong at the library

Copyright © 2021 Jane Wong
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.


Worlds such as this were not thought possible to exist.

—NASA, June 2, 2014


Was it I who invaded the day, or the day who invaded me?

I do, I undo, I redo.

I enlarged the figure till it was a mountain—I don’t fear the sublime—

and I cut off its head,

having already cut out its tongue. I have three siblings and flocks of children,

and though we’re oft confused,

you must know that I differ from all: I am not my brother Darkness,

nor my sister Dirt, nor my brother Torment.

I am a time and I am an astronomy, a geometry I invented myself, an architecture,

a divine, and like any divine,

yes, I have made kin from unions with my kin. Out of a union with my brother

I made the nymphs,

the river and the boatsman, lullabies. If X is an obstruction,

and if the poetry of X was music,

then this poem is a musical obstruction, and if this poem is a musical obstruction,

then this poem is a lullaby,

my kin born of my kin. I am a space as much as I am a voice. Did you truly hail me

for a dim-witted conversation about love?

Me? There is nothing like me. I am no more like my siblings or my parents

than I am like a placid lake,

or the Gaping from which I was born. I am a charioteer, a bird.

Would you believe me if I said I also made

the Ether and the Day? Whether or not your faith is stored in my ear,

I am sure in what I have made.

How could I be both gentle enough and dangerous enough for your thoughts?

Doyou have thoughts? I asked about moon,

dark, pain; you only gave me yourself. And as to my other question: it was me.

I invaded the day. It didn’t stand a chance.

from ArrowFind more by Sumita Chakraborty at the library

Copyright © 2020 Sumita Chakraborty
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Coda: Late March beneath the earth

fanged root begins to snake—

in three sharp thrusts

I rout out a stub

toss it on a dry heap of yellow sticks

somewhat weakened

Once ravenous

in the bed

my arms crept up hung from the iron

frame Pull me out

I cried

to no one my husband gone where he was

my family melting away

and I

attached as a root to blight

or to what is

invasive O honeysuckle

O pretty and sweet

The hollow stems crowding out

light O soundless plague of the forest

Imagine somebody whispers

stopping that cycle imagine you

being the one

I lay abed my spikes softening unwitnessed

mouth adrift missing

a petal

Heave out each inch of bindweed

and what is left A hole

too vast to be a hole

god-gutted space within the earth

nothing to push against impossible

to envision There what could be living

I go into the kitchen for water I await my friend

who has for years worked

his family garden

He who is kind

regards the root and starts

to dig—

from Pretty TripwireFind more by Alessandra Lynch at the library

Copyright © 2021 Alessandra Lynch
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Girl Gets Sick of Rose

When I asked for a pencil, they gave me a rattle.

When I asked for a hammer, they gave me a kiss.

All mongrel, no matter, I’ll stay out past dinner;

I’ve stolen the answers to all of their tests.

I’ve given up sweets, their ridiculous shapes,

Their instructions on which ones have cherries.

Everything under the sun is lukewarm;

The poppies are blooming with worry.

When they gave me a map, I thought they were done,

I thought I could take off my dress.

They told me one town was as good as another;

Sent me packing, all fiddle, no case.

Each cul-de-sac greyed like a cooled blown bulb.

All dashboard, all driver, all sky & no cake,

Each neighborhood gatehouse, a live empty socket.

When they asked for my ticket, I gave them a wink.

The instructions all listed Step One as Repeat,

The poppies were planted in rows at the park.

I lived on a circle, then moved onto a square,

Then wandered back into the kitchen half-drunk.

The screen door, the scrim, the latch, the last word.

The glass throats of each vase open wide.

A house is the largest headstone we make;

We keep walking, grateful, inside.

from Neck of the WoodsFind more by Amy Woolard at the library

Copyright © 2020 Amy Woolard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

How to Sew a Spacesuit, 1968

Dear ____________,

I’ve taken to pinning patterns on your bedroom floor

where we dragged the sweating moon.

Practical astronomy—our seam allowances

smaller than a sewing needle’s eye. Above us, the ceiling strewn with flowers

cut from the leftover wallpaper of another room.

If you can’t dampen your grief,

what will keep your fingers from being lured

under the needle in sleep, from the bared teeth

of the feed dog gathering up fabric in the wake

of our hands? Remember—one stitch fired

per footfall means fewer discarded suits.

If you can’t forgive your scissors—chalk this constellation overhead: the long arm

of the machine where we turn & turn again the whole body of your future

daughter’s spacesuit.

About heirlooms, you know what they say— + We will have to split one

needle / this winter—one end for me, / one end for air. +

How we make do and mend is not always fair.

from Little Envelope of Earth ConditionsFind more by Cori A. Winrock at the library

Copyright © 2020 Cori A. Winrock
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

California Penal Code 484

The Irvine cops picked up Sherod

while he was riding Jimmy’s bike

to school. He’d snuck up into the scrub hills

above our complex to work on the fort

we were building with wood from a deserted

rancher’s shack. By the time he came down

to the bus stop, we were the diesel exhaust

that ferried us to our daydreaming hours.

Jimmy’s bike stood in the communal racks.

We all knew the combination to its lock

and took the Huffy as needed. Sherod’s need—

to be at Rancho Middle before his father

found out he’d never made it—his need

was one too many. Jimmy’s father,

out the door to work, saw his son’s bike

gone again, reported it stolen to the cops.

A morning patrol found the bike

underneath a black boy not in school

and hauling ass down Culver Drive.

I did not understand what adult machinations

led to my parents driving that afternoon, with me,

to the Irvine police station. My father

had emigrated from England in the 70s

and was hipped to the American scene as soon

as he started dating my mother. He got out

of our Chevette, looked back at his black wife,

his too-brown son, and said, Stay put, you two.

If he pulled that white savior bullshit now,

we’d have words. But I didn’t have that term

white savior then. Even if I’d known it,

I don’t think I would have used it that day.

Would have cared to use it. My friend was in jail

and headed to juvie, that scare story—whaled on

by high school monsters twice our size—tormenting

our nights and keeping our days straight and narrow.

I didn’t care what my father said inside the station,

with what English boys’ school curtness he said it,

with what iron-backed code of whiteness. Didn’t care

and was happy when he strode out with Sherod

trailing behind him. Sherod, who did not speak

on the ride back to our apartments, who watched rows

of eucalyptus blur by on University Avenue, who

the next morning we avoided at the bus stop,

who did not try to join us, who stood with his back

toward the bike racks, toward Jimmy’s bike, fastened

there again, with new lock, with double loop of new chain.

from Ghost, like a PlaceFind more by Iain Haley Pollock at the library

Copyright © 2018 Iain Haley Pollock
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

To My Many Mothers, Issei and Nisei

Praise be to beef liver stew, to gravy biscuits

and home-baked bread, to women

in work pants and suspenders who worked like dogs

in the packing shed, up to elbows

in rose clippings. You fed us well, O goddesses

of goulash and green beans, of Sunday dinners

wrangled from the coop. For penny money

and seamstressing, praise. For parsnips

and sweet potatoes, praise. Even for the years lost

to sharecropping and strawberries, hallelujah.

You worked until the final hour then rose

three days later, baby squalling on your hip,

back to breaking canes, clipping hooks,

hustling the men through lunch hour.

No breaks, boys. Hallelujah to Pond’s Cold Cream,

to curling rags and church bento socials.

Praise to the nursery truck revving in the morning,

the clank of steel pipes and boiler-

house rumble. All glory to the Berkeley streetcar

and Key Route electric train, the smokestacks

of Richmond and foggy peaks of San Francisco.

And because they’re what taught us to praise,

glory to the roses run wild, the packing shed

left to cobweb. Praise to the crowded horse stalls

and half-built barracks of Rohwer, Arkansas,

dusty sheets and muffled nights of Block 9-9-C,

100. Sakai, Chu. 102. Sakai, Ruby. 103. Sakai, Kazue.

O praise to the camp midwives, the Nisei girls

shooting hoops and swatting birdies when their mothers

weren’t looking. And to the college-bound coed

who crossed the country, camp release papers

in hand, hallelujah. Her truth marches on.

from Isako IsakoFind more by Mia Ayumi Malhotra at the library

Copyright © 2018 Mia Ayumi Malhotra
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

“And I went up the hill to class…”

And I went up the hill to class And I had a body

And I had my body And I had a whole

hike And I was out of breath And I panted

as if a man touched me And I was on my knees

going up the stairs And white bunnies

of dust stuck to me And what stuck to me

was the smell of another hole And I took

an apple And I rested it in me And I rested

And it was a round red in the light And bright

And from underneath the man I loved

held me down And pulled himself a slice

And the swift glare and ping of a pocketknife

from Hot with the Bad ThingsFind more by Lucia LoTempio at the library

Copyright © 2020 Lucia LoTempio
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.


After Rilke’s “Les Fenêtres”


how much loss

gains suddenly in emphasis

and brilliant sadness


far from that which lives and turns



of our vain comings and goings wilt and gnaw


beat them, punish

them for having said and always said


tear out, finally, our spells


one life pours and grows impatient

for another life


and the lovers, look on them there,

immobile and frail

pinned like the butterflies

for the beauty of their wings


too great in the outdoors


like the lyre, you should be

rendered a constellation


like the scales or the lyre

an almost-name of the ages’ absences


should I defend myself

am I not intact


one who loves is never beautiful


tender – strained


all hazards are abolished

at the middle of love

with a little bit of space around it

where we are the masters


changeable like the sea


ice, sudden, where our face is mirrored



taste of freedom compromised

by the presence of fate


for whom would I wait


with this heart all full which loss completes


will I be found when the night abounds

given over to you, inexhaustible


climb! turn far and away



that you can give the excess which arrests me


the sky: immense example

of depth and height


make of the air a round arena


effort circumscribes

our life enormous


stretched toward the night




set out in type on the page

a little




like the greyhounds

arranging their legs


the sense of our rites





who rushes, who tilts, who remains

after the abandonment of the night


starry avaricious


all the grand unbroken numbers

that the night will multiply


new celestial youth

the matutinal sky


buckles close


under the guise of tenderness


time uses his jacket


inconsolable space


turned me into wind,

placed me in the river


leaves fled . . .


I had drunk

all of my abyss


one must not tire

and eat with one’s eyes


vision watered

profusely a garden of images


each bird whose flight crosses

my expanse


nothing but looking seems like life to me


nothing but looking seems like life


while the prunes ripen

O my eyes, eaters of roses

you will drink the moon


I consent

and I consent force


oh force

does not frighten me anymore, because it cradles me


in the morning, small wild,

become almost a mouth

all worn and bloodless


Be, stars, the rhymes

found at the ends of end


say enough

from ArrowFind more by Sumita Chakraborty at the library

Copyright © 2020 Sumita Chakraborty
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

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Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.